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Sermon April 5. 2020

Palm Sunday Year A 2020

Matthew 21:1-11 and Matthew 27:11-54


It was Palm Sunday, and rumor had it that Jesus was coming to town. The people in the small West Texas town were in a state of anticipation as they awaited the arrival of Jesus who they heard was riding a white stallion and kicking up dust as he rode into town.  There was no question about it.  Bad guys were on the loose, and Jesus was the one man who could deal with the troublemakers. 


It did not take long for a large crowd to gather at the city limits.  And it was not long before Jesus made his grand entrance.  As Jesus passed by the General Store, the stallion stood on its hind legs, and neighed loudly and pawed the air with its two front legs as Jesus waved His white 10-gallon hat to the crowd as He sat mounted on the stallion.


The people were impressed.  The man on the white stallion looked like he could take care of himself.  There was no doubt about it, there was going to be a showdown.  And the man in the white hat would save the day.


Of course, you realize that this is not what happened on Palm Sunday.  Jesus did not kick up dust as he rode into his favorite West Texas town.  And Jesus was not mounted on a majestic stallion, and Jesus did not wave his white hat to the crowd. 


No, Jesus rode to town mounted on a donkey.  And instead of hats being thrown into the air and gunshots breaking the silence as the folks celebrated; the people spread palm branches on the road. 


And to add to the seriousness of the situation the people laid out their cloaks before Him and shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest heaven.” Matthew 21:9


Even so, we are told that there was confusion and that the whole city was in turmoil.  People were even asking “Who is this man?”  Yes, news had spread about Jesus, but not everyone had heard the news.  Even though not all the people had heard the wonderful things Jesus had done and said, the people did welcome Jesus as a hero as He made his way into the city.  And the excitement grew as the people greeted Him and waved their palm branches and anticipated the wonderful things He would do for them.


But the festivities did not last very long.  Why?  Jesus did not give “royal waves” to the crowd who had stood waiting to greet Him.  And the Gospel of Luke informs us that as Jesus got closer to the city, He wept.  It is apparent that Jesus knew what lay ahead of Him.  And Jesus knew that there were folks in the city planning to get rid of Him.  Jesus knew that the crowd that was shouting “Hosanna!” as He rode into town would soon cry out for His execution.


And why would the folks do this?  The people of Jerusalem became restless when the events did not transpire as they had hoped.  And the people felt betrayed and let down.


The man they had welcomed into town did not recruit an army.  The man whom they had spread palm branches to celebrate his grand entrance into their midst did not announce the beginning of a new regime or the start of a glorious new kingdom in their midst.


So, when the people of Jerusalem heard that Jesus had been arrested and that Jesus was facing the death penalty for treason the people again filled the streets and shouted out their frustrations with the words “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!


The man on the donkey did not meet their expectations.  The man, riding a colt (the foal of a donkey) did not carry out what they wanted Him to do.  One moment everything seemed to be going the way the people had hoped it would, and then suddenly (in their eyes) the whole thing fell to pieces.


But life can be like that.  Disappointment hurts.  In life, health can turn to illness, marriage can become divorce, a change in vocation status can result in financial difficulty, retirement can produce a loss of identity.  In our minds we envision how things should be and then become frustrated when things do not end up as we had hoped.


The year 2020 so far has been full of disappointment.  The economy is down.  Layoffs and job losses loom on the horizon.  Food and basic everyday items are hard to find.  Social distancing is the new norm.  Restaurants are closed for in-house dining.  Vacation plans have been put on hold.  Weddings and family gatherings suspended.  Schools have been shut down.  Graduations ceremonies delayed.  Baseball, basketball, hockey and other sporting events cancelled until further notice.  The Olympics moved to the year 2021. 


Even the unthinkable has happened.   The Easter celebration that is scheduled for next week has been postponed until the coronavirus crisis is over.


The people who lined the streets of Jerusalem were disappointed.  They were disappointed because they had forgotten that Jesus entered the City of Jerusalem for the same reason that all devout Jews entered Jerusalem at the Passover event – that is to sacrifice the Passover Lamb.


The people were disappointed because they failed to comprehend that Jesus Himself was/is the Passover Lamb as John the Baptist had told them when he said “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  John 1:29 


The people had forgotten that our strength, our life, our hope all rest upon God and not on us.  That is why the Apostle Paul could state “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 

2 Corinthians 4:8-11


It is precisely because Jesus did not come in earthly glory on a white horse that we have life.  It is because we preach Christ and carry around the death of Jesus in our bodies, we know we will never be completely crushed, or live in the deepest depth of despair, or feel totally abandoned, or wholly destroyed.  For God placed all our sin into the sinless body of Jesus and crushed and abandoned Him so we will never be fully crushed or abandoned.


We are blessed because not only do we carry the death of Jesus around with us, we also carry the life of Jesus.  Jesus conquered death.  The evil one did not win.  The grave could not contain Him.  The disappointments in this life will not last forever.  Because Jesus rose from the grave, we can face tomorrow with the knowledge that the future is in God’s hands.


Easter will come whether we gather in the sanctuary or we physically separate ourselves from each other.  The coronavirus cannot stop God’s Redeeming Activity in our World.  Faith trusts/knows that Easter is coming.  And that is why we can shout “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”       


Let us pray: Almighty God, you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take our flesh upon him and to suffer death on the cross.  Grant that we may share in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of his resurrection; through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.


Procession with Palm Branches Hymn: “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” ELW # 344

Hymn of the Day: “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” ELW # 351


Prayer of the Day:  Everlasting God, in your endless love for the human race you sent our Lord Jesus Christ to take on our nature and to suffer death on the cross.  In your mercy enable us to share in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.